Bodyworks: Morton's Neuroma

How to recognise it, how to overcome it

by Patrick Milroy

You’ll normally feel numbness down the insides of the third and fourth toes, and pain under the ball of the foot which gets worse as you run. Although it may feel like walking on pebbles in shoes it is often relieved when barefoot. You’ll experience acute pain if you compress the sides of the foot together.

Your transverse arch has usually become flattened, bringing the heads of your metatarsals (midfoot bones) together and compressing the nerve between them, causing swelling of the nerve along with the pain.

What else could it be?
Pain over the metatarsal heads (metatarsalgia), a stress fracture of the bone, or tendinitis may mimic the pain, while conditions varying from diabetes to multiple sclerosis could cause the numbness.

Raising the transverse arch of the foot with a metatarsal arch support can separate the bones and free the pressure on the nerve, which may recover. Wearing wide-fitting or loose-laced shoes can help, while partial rest becomes a painful necessity.

Medical treatment
If conservative measures with non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (eg ibuprofen) fail, a steroid cortisone injection may reduce the inflammation. Many cases require surgery to remove the damaged, swollen and inflamed nerve.

Can you run through it?
Ignore the symptoms at your peril. If you leave the condition until surgery is required, you’re likely to lose a full month from your running schedule.

Recovery time
If the condition is caught early and appropriate measures taken, there should be minimal upset.

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Bodyworks: Meniscal Injuries


Discuss this article

Please help .........I have a constant pain on the ball of my foot I've had xrays and taken anti-inflammatory's (which just upset my stomach and hid the pain)but I am still in pain.

Has anyone any ideas ?????
Posted: 14/08/2002 at 10:02

Hi Kate,
Maybe you are wearing the wrong type of Trainers. Have you been to a proper running shop and have the staff select the correct trainers for your feet.
Hope this helps

Posted: 14/08/2002 at 11:16

I have always run in asics trainers currently 2060 and have never had any problems.

But I will go and seek advice from the experts thanks for your help
Posted: 14/08/2002 at 11:21

Hi Kate,

I too have had similar problems. I don't know whether you've had proper advice yet, but if it is the ball of the great toe, that you are getting the pain from the small sesamoid bone which run in the split tendons of a small muscle (flexor hallucis brevis).

Fortunately, when I had this problem, rest, and softer cushioning have more or less resolved the problem for me. I imagine exercises for the intrinsic foot muscles, such as toe press-ups could help in the long run.

If you havenit yet, do see a podiatrist who can relieve the problem by customising footwear, or by simply putting felt around the area to prevet your weight being taken on the painful area.

Good luck,

Posted: 19/08/2002 at 20:45

Hi Kate
A couple of points
1)Identify localised area of pressure (behind which toe(s))
2)Are you a forefoot or rearfoot striker?
3)What foot motion do you have?
4) Do you stretch your lower calf (if it is too tight it will transfer weight too quickly onto the forefoot).

Let us know and I'll be able to get you a more precise answer

Posted: 07/07/2003 at 12:56

I have the same problem, in the area of the sesamoid bone, and no one has been able to solve it yet- I have tried rest, ultrasound, taping.... to no avail. Any ideas?
Posted: 16/07/2003 at 14:03

I am suffering from the same symptoms. I just recently went to and found that the condition described as Morton's Syndrome with instructions on rehab, stretching and strengthening exercises. So preparing to give it a go after weeks of rest, ice, anti - inflammatories,balms etc.
Posted: 14/08/2003 at 13:05

I have had this problem for several months. Xrays all clear but foot still hurts. I can run but hurts more next day. Should I ?
Posted: 15/06/2004 at 21:50

Julia - I am in same boat, been to physio etc tried resting and also have used some gel pads. The pads have helped and enable me to run on soft surfaces, treat mills etc for upto 10 miles (furthest I have dared to go so far!). I still get some pain and yesterday I ran a hard 10K and got pain in the sesamoid area again after the race. Fortunately, this morning it is a little sore but not like it was back in November when it really was bad. I am just a little concerned that I may get problems when trying half and full marathons. I really don't want to go down the orthotics route but may have to if problem persists.
Posted: 17/06/2004 at 12:37

I also have heel pain. Have had it now for 3 months. I am training for the London Marathon so i have just run through the pain. May have cortisone injection next week but for the last couple of weeks i have soaked foot in really hot water with a cup of salt, which the doctor told me to do and it is a whole lot better.
Posted: 21/03/2005 at 22:33

Do it every day
Posted: 21/03/2005 at 22:35

I had this problem last year (and feel it occasionally now if I race twice in a weekend) because I am an over-pronator. I was recommended rest + standard orthotics so I got some from boots for my trail shoes and some road trainers with arch support. That did the trick but looks like I'll have to get them custom-made now though due to another problem caused by pronation!
Posted: 13/04/2005 at 21:07

I have been running on the road for 4 months now, but I am suffering pain after 20 minutes on the sole of my left foot, and further pain down the outside of the same foot. I did try to run through it, but that didn't work, so I stopped for a full 2 weeks and bought some new running shoes having visted a specialist shop. Just back from a 5 mile warm up and in pain all over again and feeling pretty much depressed about it all. If I can't get this sorted I will have to stop as I am sick of people asking why I have a constant limp!
Posted: 18/06/2005 at 10:03

Check out

I am a postural alignment therapist practising this method in southeast London.
Through personal experience, chronic pain and injury, I know it works - permanently!


Posted: 18/06/2005 at 14:50

Hi, I ran a 5k race 2 weeks ago and am training for a 10k in Edinburgh in 4 weeks. I have started to develop a painful, burning sensation in the ball of both feet after about 4 miles. Sometimes some toes go numb too. Can anyone tell me a likely cause and remedy? Thanks very much.
Posted: 08/04/2006 at 20:52

Hi Catrina,

I solved my foot problem by replacing the standard inner soles with some cushioned gell ones you can by from good sports shops. The numb toes were solved by wearing short training socks or liners instead of normal sports socks - the change was amazing and highly recomended. I just ran the Liverpool half and didn't get as much as a numb little pinky!

Hope this helps

Posted: 09/04/2006 at 16:59

Hi Catrina,

I also suffer from numb toes when I run and basically do any kind of excersise. I recently consulted a sports physiotherapist and he suggested that I try using metatarsal pads/supports to help fan out the metatarsal bones and give the nerves that run to the toes more room. I am still in the process of searching for a supplier of metatarsal pads/supports, but I am sure if you search on the web you will find some or someone on the forum may have an idea were to get them.

Hope this helps!

Posted: 24/08/2006 at 10:49

I have suffered pain in the underneath of my midfoot for about 3 mths. It started when I suffered pain when playing tennis so I think I may have a fracture. It has not got any better and is now painful when I walk. I can run but am worried about making it worse. Any suggestions in the best course of treatment ?
Posted: 06/09/2006 at 20:55

Hi all,
I have had pain that started in the heal area (quite a small localised area) and now it is towards the midfoot.

I have been paying a fortune for an osteopath weekly who does acupuncture, inferential therapy, ultrasound & provided orthotics which seems to have worked to dull the pain. He calls it Plantar Fascia Tendonitis & recommended a program for me to continue running, unlike physios who say complete rest. As i have a marathon to run i coudn't affort to lose my fitness and several months of hard training.

I did however crosstrain/spin etc more than ran for the past 6 weeks.

I am now training mostly on the treadmill rather than outdoors and am only running 5 days with a crosstraining day (per Hal Higdon marathon training program). I think i was definitely overtraining and doing too many races without allowing rest time for muscle recovery and repair.

The longest time i have run for is 2 hrs last Sun and although the pain was dulled, it was still present.

I am running New York Marathon in Nov. & the Osteopath thinks i should be fine but i wonder whether i need to take anti-inflammatories beforehand if this dull pain remains until the marathon.

What do people out there think?? Has anyone run a full marathon with it? I have a Half Marathon this Sun (my 1st race back) so hope it goes ok.

Any advice is very welcome. . . please!

Ta Bec
Posted: 06/09/2006 at 22:08

I've suffered with PF for the last six months. I've had physio, orthotics, 2x steriod injections. Recently I got fed up with it all and ditched the orthotics, stopped all the stretching calves, rolling frozen iced bottles etc. Since then my feet have come on leaps and bounds. I've got a bike race this weekend but after that I'm going to start competetive running again.

Bec if your feet have started healing then as long as your sensible some running should be ok. The best advice I've had recently which prompted my ditching of my orthotics was 'listen to your feet'. If my feet are sore, I'll cross train/swim or cycle. If they feel good I'll run. All the best for New York. If you see Lance Armstrong say hi from me. Livestrong ;-)

Posted: 07/09/2006 at 21:08

Help! Woke up with pain below my second toe on the ball of my foot. Its a constant pain and is sore walking. Not ran today, but I am running a full marathon in 5 days time!! Extremely worried!! What could it be?? Its been 2 days now and not any better.
Posted: 17/05/2011 at 18:51

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